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*Updated* The Briggs Cunningham Special Revisited


After a recent post here about the Briggs Cunningham’s DOHC Frontenac Ford “T” sprint car, information has come to light about many of the details surrounding the car. Racing historian Michael Ferner has identified the driver as “Ed” Coffey and the builder of the car as well. Michael tells us:

“The Cunningham-Fronty was built by R.T. Jackson of Dayton, Ohio. See the article in “Speedway Magazine,” March 1933, covering the car. It was driven by Ed Coffey of Connecticut while owned by Cunningham, and perhaps others. Cunningham sold the car to Gil Pirrung of Missouri the following year, who had Doc MacKenzie, Billy Devore and Babe Stapp drive the car. In 1936 he sold it to Joel Thorne.”

  • Dayton1       Dayton2       Dayton3
  • The “Speedway Magazine” of March, 1933 covered the construction details.

Reader Carl Schultz took the identification of John “Ed” Coffey as the driver a bit further and contacted his son, Edward Coffey, who has written a book titled A Glimpse of Old Monroe (Connecticut). In it, Coffey included the newspaper article with two photos from October 16, 1933 about the inaugural event at the track you see at the top of this post. The bottom photo was clearly shot in the same setting as in our earlier post on the car.

As often happens in this field, the answer to one question often brings information to light that might be helpful in another’s  research. Publisher and racing historian Joseph Freeman, who is working on a book about the racing Duesenberg’s, has asked if anyone can provide further information about Fred Meyer’s No. 44 Duesenberg from Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Monroe Speedway appears to have been a short-lived operation, as it is not mentioned in any of the books covering old racetracks that we have come across. Can any of our readers tell us more about the track and how long it remained in operation?

  • Speedway
  • The Monroe Speedway, April 1934, courtesy of Kevin Daly.

*Update* Thanks to reader Kevin Daily who has sent us the photo above and the information below about the track:

“My information came directly from my extensive correspondence with Lois Hurd-Hayden. Lois is Ben’s daughter and was the little girl who sat on her daddy’s lap bulldozing all those old Yankee stonewalls into the trenches.  She has little memory of the active days of the track, other than perhaps selling hot dogs to those in attendance, but she certainly still remembers transforming the track it into the airport in the late 30′s.

 Just below is an aerial image of Monroe Speedway taken in April of 1934.  You can see what appears to be the flag man’s podium on the eastern straightaway at the mid-track infield.  I sent this image to Lois about five years back and she was floored.  She’d never seen the image before, nor had our Historical Society or Historian.  It caused quite a stir within the Hurd Family and she still stays in touch from time to time from her home in Florida.  The speedway/track is a cemetery today but you can still see the northern curve of the track in the grass if you know where to look, and the eastern straightaway is a quiet walking/bike path in the woods.

Remnants of the smaller Huntington Speedway just a mile to the Southeast are also still visible if you know where to look. 

Posted in Auto Racing 1894 - 1942 | Tagged , , , , |

Briggs Cunningham’s DOHC Frontenac Equipped Ford “T” Sprint Car

Briggs Swift Cunningham II spent his summers on the water and had learned to sail by the time he was six years old. At the age of 17, he began a run of thirty seasons of sailboat racing on Long Island Sound. He attended Yale for two years and left in 1929 to marry Lucy Bedford. At this time, he made sports his way of life.

Early on he became interested in auto racing and either bought this DOHC Frontenac powered Ford “T” sprint car or had someone build it for him. We do not know any of the other details about the car, but we seem to remember hearing that he may have had someone else drive this car for him in racing events at the time. We would be interested in knowing who built this car, in what time period was it raced and the driver of the car when it was campaigned. It appears that this may have been his first racing car that lead him onto a long and successful career in motorsports.

  •           The 1929 dohc Fronty cylinder head as seen in the 1929 catalog.

You can view an interesting original Frontenac Ford catalog here on The Old Motor. You can also learn much more about the D.O. Fronty cylinder head along with other Fronty heads and crankshafts via the N.W.V.S. The Cunningham photos are courtesy of Jerry Lettieri. Learn more about the recent gathering of post war Cunningham cars at the Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park at The Revs Institute.

Posted in Auto photos 1921 - 1942, Auto Racing 1894 - 1942 | Tagged , , , , |

The First Cunningham Sports Car – Part I

By:  Leigh Dorrington

The first Cunningham sports car was 5101, constructed by the B.S. Cunningham Company in West Palm Beach, Florida in early 1951.  The first car was built with a Cadillac ohv V-8 similar to those raced by Cunningham at Le Mans in 1950, on a 105”-wheelbase chassis designed and built by Cunningham with a Cadillac 3-speed manual transmission and De Dion rear axel.  This car, the Cunningham sports car prototype, was only retrospectively referred to as a ‘C-1’ as other models followed.  This image was published extensively in both the UK and the U.S. as part of the announcement.  Coincidentally the same image was later used to illustrate a 1952 brochure for The Cunningham C-2 production sports car, leading to a certain amount of confusion and misidentification. Photo courtesy of Leigh Dorrington.

Posted in Auto photos 1946 - 1965, Auto Racing 1946 - 1965 | Tagged , , |

Stately Cunninghams

A pair of stylish and exclusive Cunnigham cars, a light and airy sedan above and an open fronted limousine below. Revisit this page on The Old Motor to read all about these find automobiles. Photos courtesy of the Tom Jakeway Collection.

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